Unlike California’s majestic rivers and massive dams and
conveyance systems, groundwater is out of sight and underground,
though no less plentiful. The state’s enormous cache of
underground water is a great natural resource and has contributed
to the state becoming the nation’s top agricultural producer and
leader in high-tech industries.
Groundwater is also increasingly relied upon by growing cities
and thirsty farms, and it plays an important role in the future
sustainability of California’s overall water supply. In an
average year, roughly 40 percent of California’s water supply
comes from groundwater.
A new era of groundwater management began in 2014 with the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which requires local
and regional agencies to develop and implement sustainable
groundwater management plans with the state as the backstop.
In April, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order outlining
the temporary strategies for California to manage the ongoing
drought. Within this order, he outlined rules for counties,
cities and other public agencies as it relates to new wells or
alterations to an existing well. One rule requires farmers and
ranchers to get written verification from their local
groundwater sustainability agency that the new well or
alterations “would not be inconsistent with any sustainable
groundwater management program” for the area.
A state program aimed at retiring and repurposing farmland
could get $60 million – more than doubling its current funding
– under Gov. Newsom’s proposed budget. The Multibenefit Land
Repurposing Program was created with $50 million from the 2021
state budget. The program helps pay for farmland to be taken
out of production and repurposed to less water intensive uses.
Farmers in the San Joaquin Valley have pumped groundwater for
crops without limits for generations. But groundwater levels
are plummeting …
Navajo Nation leaders say failing septic and solid waste
systems are becoming an increasing concern in many areas of the
reservation. One tribal lawmaker has gathered nearly 170
accounts from residents of Blue Gap, Many Farms and other
chapters about deficient sanitation facilities in homes.
Officials say it’s a serious environmental contamination issue
that threatens land and water and creates significant health
risks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Orange County Water District and the City of Garden Grove
began operating one of four treatment plants being constructed
in Garden Grove to remove per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances
(PFAS) from local well water. PFAS are a group of thousands of
manmade, heat-resistant chemicals that are prevalent in the
environment and are commonly used in consumer products to repel
water, grease and oil. Due to their prolonged use, PFAS are
being detected in water sources throughout the United States,
including the Orange County Groundwater Basin, which supplies
77% of the water supply to 2.5 million people in north and
central Orange County.
When you picture water storage, a water tower on slanted stilts
imposed upon a blue sky or a concrete reservoir piping water to
the city might come to mind. The issue of water storage has
become a high priority as regions such as California experience
severe multi-year drought and are impacted by overextraction
from aquifers. … The most climate resilient and long-term
strategies to address water shortage lie at our feet, in the
meadows that anchor our rivers headwaters and floodplains that
extend across the broad lower river valleys.
On March 22, 2022, the Second District Court of Appeal
published its Opinion in Buena Vista Water Storage District v.
Kern Water Bank Authority, upholding the Environmental Impact
Report (EIR) for the Kern Water Bank Authority’s Conservation
and Storage Project (“Project”) and reversing the trial court’s
ruling. The Project proposes to divert up to 500,000
acre-feet-per-year (AFY) from the Kern River for recharge,
storage, and later recovery within the Kern Water Bank.
For the fourth time in 10 years, farmers I know in California
are facing a harsh reality — they won’t see a drop of water
from federal government reserves to supplement the little bit
they’ll get from Mother Nature. … Precision
agriculture — the use of technology like networked sensors and
artificial intelligence — is helping farmers get by without the
water they once had. The efficiencies are real, and the impact
is tangible. I’ve seen up close how precision agriculture is
making a difference for farms facing extreme drought. -Written by Michael Gilbert, CEO of Semios,
helping farmers use data to optimize every acre.
The California Water Commission approved a white paper that
contains its findings and the potential next steps for State
engagement in shaping well-managed groundwater trading programs
with appropriate safeguards for vulnerable water users: natural
resources, small- and medium-size farms, and water supply and
quality for disadvantaged communities. The white paper will be
shared with the Secretaries for Natural Resources,
Environmental Protection, and Food and Agriculture, who
requested the Commission’s engagement on this topic.
In my drought- and fire-plagued home valley, 40 miles north of
San Francisco, a debate has been simmering for decades over a
massive development planned on state-owned property. The
conflict is focused on nearly 1,000 acres of rural and wildland
in Sonoma Valley. The prime wine-country property has been eyed
for development since long before 2018 … Water,
especially, is in short supply. The valley’s 44,000-acre
groundwater basin and recycled water provide only half of the
community’s water. Piped-in supplies make up the other half,
shipped from increasingly drought-stressed river basins farther
Environmentalists advocating new state restrictions on oil and
gas drilling have seized upon confirmation last week that two
idle wells were leaking methane near a residential area in
northeast Bakersfield decades after they were improperly
abandoned. Details remained sketchy Monday, including how much
gas the wells were emitting and for how long. … Late
last month, California officials outlined plans for doing more
to cap the state’s orphan oil and gas wells using $25 million
in federal money they said will help them prioritize work in
populated areas most vulnerable to methane leaks and
Homes and businesses across central Sonoma County generated
more than 5 billion gallons of wastewater last year, enough to
fill more than 7,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. That sewage
flowed into Santa Rosa’s regional treatment plant south of
Sebastopol, where it was cleaned up and nearly all of it put to
a second use. About 4 billion gallons of recycled water was
pumped north from the Llano Road treatment plant in a 41-mile
pipeline and up a steep slope into The Geysers geothermal
fields southeast of Cloverdale.
City of Porterville Manager John Lollis … announced at
Tuesday’s Porterville City Council meeting the County and State
may exercise its right to take 3 million gallons of
water a month at no charge from a city well as part of the
arrangement the city, county and state reached to supply East
Porterville with water after the 2015 drought. … Lollis
noted the state still hasn’t fulfilled its portion of the
agreement which called for the development of three wells for
the City of Porterville as part of the East Porterville
Local and state water leaders were practically upbeat two years
ago at the last in-person Water Summit put on by the Water
Association of Kern County. At least as upbeat as California
water folks typically get. They advocated for new ideas,
radical partnerships and solutions that could benefit both ag
and environmental interests. That was then. Facing a third year
of punishing drought and the bleak realities of new groundwater
restrictions, the vibe at this year’s summit was more “in the
bunker” than “in it together.”
Last week, an official and dire-sounding warning about high
nitrate levels in the city of Exeter’s water supply began
appearing on social media sites, and with them came comments
rife with speculation, fearful reactions and visions of
impending doom. The water situation in the midsize foothill
town, however, is not as dangerous or widespread as some of
those who stumble across the notice without context imagine it
is. … The reality, says Exeter’s Director of Public Works
Daymon Qualls, is Exeter’s water remains safe for most
consumers. It should not be consumed by infants and pregnant
women until the nitrate levels drop, probably in the autumn
when the dry season ends.
For Executive Pastor Mark Spurlock, expanding classroom space
at the Twin Lakes Christian School in Aptos has been addition
by subtraction. At least when it comes to saving water.
Following development offset rules outlined by the Soquel Creek
Water District, the school engineered water-saving solutions to
offset the new space they were building including replacing
lawn areas with a drought-friendly plaza that catches and
diverts water routed from nearby rooftops. … To
better understand seawater intrusion, Duncan says the layman
can think of the Santa Cruz area’s aquifer as a giant bathtub
with mountain watershed on one side, and ocean on the other.
A proposal apparently headed to the November ballot would have
voters in rural southeastern Arizona decide whether to create a
new regulatory district to manage large-scale groundwater use
for agriculture in an area where aquifer levels have dropped in
recent years. A grassroots group collected sufficient voter
signatures on petitions required under state law for a ballot
measure on creation of an active management area in the Willcox
basin in Cochise and Graham counties, myheraldreview.com
reported. The management area would be Arizona’s first created
through a petition drive.
New numbers continue to show California Sierra snowpack is
dropping along with the state’s groundwater but why is that
important? Check out this image below and you’ll see all of the
ways we use snowpack. That Spring snowmelt not only fills
our streams, reservoirs and lakes, we also use it for
agriculture, household, ecology and hydropower. In total
providing one-third of the state’s water supply. The
problem lately, we just can’t get enough storms to keep the
snowpack at normal levels. This year only finished at 42%
The City of San Diego is suing more than 20 companies over
decades-long water contamination from toxic chemical called
PFAS. The lawsuit claims manufacturers like 3M, DuPont, and
Raytheon made firefighting foam that contained PFAS and alleges
the companies concealed “knowledge about the grave
environmental and human health dangers of these compounds.”
The ongoing water feud between two of Kings County’s biggest
farming entities recently spilled into Kern County and up to
Sacramento with allegations on both sides of misuse of water
and other public resources. In a May 12 letter, the Southwest
Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency complains that the J.G.
Boswell Company has been pumping and storing massive amounts of
groundwater for irrigation in a shallow basin, subjecting it to
extreme evaporation and contributing to the area’s already
significant subsidence problems.
California lawmakers and the governor are hashing out the final
details for investing billions of state dollars into a drought
relief plan with long-term water investments and some benefits
A dash of ruthenium atoms on a mesh of copper nanowires could
be one step toward a revolution in the global ammonia industry
that also helps the environment. Collaborators at Rice
University’s George R. Brown School of Engineering, Arizona
State University and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
developed the high-performance catalyst that can, with near
100% efficiency, pull ammonia and solid ammonia — aka
fertilizer — from low levels of nitrates that are widespread
in industrial wastewater and polluted groundwater.
The Mojave Water Agency began delivering imported water last
week to a storage aquifer near Barstow, bringing welcome relief
to the water table there that has hit a record low. The MWA
Board of Directors unanimously approved the delivery of
5,000-acre-feet of water to the Centro Basin during its April
28 board meeting. The Centro Basin is one of five subareas
or sub-basins, which are defined and separated in part by
earthquake faults and other geological features but also are
interconnected to some extent, water engineers say.
Even if you’ve never heard of imidacloprid, there’s a good
chance the world’s most-used neonicotinoid pesticide is lurking
somewhere in your home. Or on your dog. Or maybe even in your
groundwater or drinking-water supplies. This insecticide,
widely used for decades on fruits, vegetables and many other
crops, has triggered growing concerns over its well-documented
role in the dramatic declines of birds, bees, butterflies and
other insects across the globe. … With imidacloprid being
discovered in groundwater and drinking-water supplies across
the state, state regulators — and legislators — finally are
paying closer attention … -Written by Jonathan Evans, legal director of the
Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health
The process of connecting Tooleville’s water system to
Exeter’s, which would relieve the small community of longtime
water supply and contamination issues, is expected to take
eight years. Information from the feasibility study
needed to start planning the project has been unfolding bit by
bit, mainly through biweekly meetings held between Exeter city
officials, representatives from Tooleville, staff from Self
Help Enterprises and Provost and Pritchard, the consultants in
charge of the study.
As a young person growing up in Ventura County for the past 19
years, I am no stranger to droughts. Not watering the lawn and
taking shorter showers is simply a part of life in Southern
California. Although water is scarce in Ventura County, there
is currently a direct threat to our drinking water.
Unfortunately, the oil industry wants to profit at the expense
of our precious groundwater that supplies drinking water to
over 400,000 Ventura County residents and irrigation water to
our $2 billion agriculture economy. -Written by Alex Masci, an undergraduate in
environmental studies at UC Berkeley, a coordinator with CA
Youth Vs Big Oil, and a supporter of VC-SAFE.
New legislation introduced in the State Assembly aims to make
the Governor’s March 28 order on new water well permits
permanent. Assemblymember Steve Bennett (D-Ventura) and
representatives from Visalia-based Community Water Center (CWC)
introduced Assembly Bill 2201 on March 31 requiring local
Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) to evaluate new well
drilling permits to ensure those wells will not negatively
affect domestic wells nearby before the permits can be approved
by county government. The law would codify Gov. Gavin Newsom’s
executive order, which is temporary.
Construction recently began on a well designed to inject water
back into the groundwater basin beneath Long Beach. The
groundbreaking last week took place at the Water Replenishment
District’s advanced water treatment facility, on the
southeastern border of Long Beach, next to the San Gabriel
River. The plant further treats sewer effluent from the Los
Angeles County Sanitation District to create purified recycled
water. Recycled water already is used for irrigation and in
other wells to form a barrier against salt water so it won’t
get into the ground water basin.
short course starting Thursday will provide
registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater
is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed. The class,
offered by University of California, Davis and several
other organizations in cooperation with the Water Education
Foundation, will be held May 12, 19, 26 and
June 2, 16 from 9 a.m. to noon. If you attended
the Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop in April,
you get a discount on registration! at $60!
short course starting Thursday will provide
registrants the opportunity to learn more about how groundwater
is monitored, assessed and sustainably managed.
The class, offered by University of California, Davis and
several other organizations in cooperation with the Water
Education Foundation, will be held May 12, 19,
26 and June 2, 16 from 9 a.m. to noon.
The Water Replenishment District (WRD) of Southern California
celebrated the groundbreaking of its Inland Injection Well
Project at the WRD Leo J. Vander Lans Advanced Water Treatment
Facility in the City of Long Beach. When the WRD Inland
Injection Well Project is complete, it will yield up to 2
million gallons of purified recycled water per day from the WRD
Leo J. Vander Lans Advanced Water Treatment Facility (LVL AWTF)
and inject it into the groundwater aquifers for storage and
The implementation of the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act (SGMA) over the next two decades may require taking at
least 500,000 acres of cropland in the San Joaquin Valley out
of irrigated production (about 10%). To soften the blow on jobs
and economic activity, it will be important to identify
alternative land uses that generate income. Solar development
is one of the most promising options.
A plan has been put in place to help replenish
groundwater supplies in Allensworth, a community historically
affected by water supply issues. Led by the Tri-County
Water Authority, the Allensworth Project is a multi-component
plan aimed at replenishing groundwater supplies and mitigating
emergency flood water damage by constructing two gravity-fed
basins to catch flood runoff from the White River. The basins
will divert water from the river for direct use and recharge,
and will be used as a recreational park during dry seasons.
Fractures have appeared within Kern County’s largest
groundwater agency as pressure mounts for it to show the state
how it plans to address the region’s massive groundwater
deficit. Four water entities recently notified the Kern
Groundwater Authority they were pulling out of the 16-member
group to write their own groundwater sustainability plan. That
will add a sixth plan covering the Kern subbasin, which extends
across the San Joaquin Valley portion of the county.
In farming areas across the Central Valley, a well-drilling
frenzy has accelerated over the last year as growers turn to
pumping more groundwater during the drought, even as falling
water levels leave hundreds of nearby homes with dry wells.
Counties have continued freely issuing well-drilling permits in
the years since California passed a landmark law, the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014 … Some state
legislators are now supporting a bill that they say would
strengthen oversight and limit the well-drilling frenzy by
requiring a review of permits for new wells by the same local
agencies that are charged with managing groundwater.
As the deadline for local agencies to implement plans to reduce
groundwater use approaches, a new study finds California’s
landmark legislation may have less of an impact on the local
agriculture economy than originally predicted. A study
authored by Professor Michael McCullough on the effect of the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) in the Tule Sub
Basin in the Central Valley … says by 2040, the deadline for
local agencies to reach groundwater sustainability, the 2014
law will likely result in the loss of some crops, but probably
not the more valuable ones, such as fruit and nuts…
On Dec. 21, 2021, The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo
County completed three contiguous conservation easements on the
Attiyeh Ranch near Lake Nacimiento. The easements permanently
protect a whopping 7,682 acres of oak woodland, annual
grasslands, and chaparral, as well as significant freshwater
resources and wildlife habitat.
Long Beach Water Department customers will be seeing a small
decrease in their monthly bills after the city’s water
commission voted Wednesday to lower rates after the city’s
legal defeat over transferring excess revenue from the
department into its general fund. The 2.54% decrease will
result in a savings of about $2 per month for most residential
customers for the rest of the fiscal year that ends in
September. Lauren Gold, the department’s public information
officer, said the reduction will result in a loss of about $3
million for the department.
In the midst of a years-long drought, California is
implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,
creating even more concerns for the state’s dairy farmers.
… The biggest impact for dairies may be not so much on
the dairy facility but on the feed side. Without adequate water
or certainty of water, the question is where the feed will come
from. The implementation of SGMA is going to impact local
forages, hay, silages and wheat …
Multiple San Joaquin Valley groundwater projects got a
significant shot of state funding this week to kickstart
recharge, and other, projects. On Monday, the Department of
Water Resources (DWR) announced $150 million was awarded to 20
agencies through its first round of the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Grant Program. That includes almost $84 million for
11 agencies in the San Joaquin Valley.
In an effort to boost water supply reliability for millions of
Californians, the California Department of Water Resources
(DWR) has announced its first round of funding to 20 agencies
responsible for managing critically overdrafted groundwater
basins throughout the state. A total of $150 million in funding
is being awarded to regional groundwater agencies through the
Sustainable Groundwater Management (SGM) Grant Program. The
funding will go toward projects focused on water efficiency,
groundwater recharge, feasibility studies for alternative water
supplies, and the installation of monitoring wells.
Advocates are sounding the alarm for what they think could be
the collapse of the San Joaquin Valley’s agriculture workforce.
As drought continues to hammer the state and groundwater
pumping restrictions take effect, farmland will need to be
retired en masse. While there have been many
conversations, including legislation, on how to support farmers
during intermittent droughts, advocates say there has been
little to no planning for what will happen to the nearly
167,000 farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley when swaths of
farmland are permanently fallowed.
Last summer, Siskiyou County’s recently appointed sheriff,
Jeremiah LaRue, released a video on YouTube to explain two
controversial new county groundwater laws. The drought was
severe that year, he said, and the “wasteful extraction” of
water for illegal cannabis cultivation was making it worse.
… The environmentalist rhetoric and talk of water policy
signaled a shift in how LaRue’s department policed the illicit
What does Slow Water mean? In our attempt to control water
we’re often trying to eradicate the slow phases and move it a
lot more quickly. We’re putting up levees so that it won’t
settle on floodplains. We’re filling in wetlands so that we can
build or farm on top of them. We’re cutting down mountain
forests that act as water towers, generating water and
releasing it slowly. In all of the cases I looked at, the water
detectives were trying to give water access to its slow phases
again, whether that meant restoring or protecting wetlands, or
reclaiming floodplains, or protecting wet meadows, or in a
city, creating something like bioswales.
Gov. Newsom’s emergency drought order that singled out
agricultural wells for extra scrutiny is continuing to cause
confusion and angst in some parts of the San Joaquin Valley,
while other areas are stutter-stepping forward. Selma raisin
farmer Tony Panoo was happy to finally have his well drilled on
Monday after several tense weeks when his permit application
was stuck between Fresno County and the Central Kings
Groundwater Sustainability Agency (GSA), which covers his
California is home to thousands of oil and gas wells abandoned
years ago and never properly sealed — many of them
sitting near homes, schools and businesses from the coast to
the Inland Empire. With no legally responsible party to clean
them up, environmental leaders say that 5,356 abandoned and
deserted wells now sprawl across Southern California and the
state, polluting drinking water and leaking methane, a powerful
greenhouse gas. That is about to change as the state gets
millions of dollars in state and federal funding to safely seal
During Tuesday’s Butte County Board of Supervisors Meeting, the
board heard from Luhdorff and Scalmanaini Consulting Engineers,
who they hired in December 2021 to do a drought impact analyst
study. The results found that for agriculture: Areas that
utilize surface water in normal years pump more in drought
years, as is expected. Total cost of water compared to total
cost of production remains low but may increase in the
During drought years, California relies heavily on its
groundwater supply. As droughts become longer and more intense
with climate change, it’s becoming more important than ever to
“bank” excess surface water during stormy weather patterns in
order to provide some long-term insurance. … [Dr. Helen
Dahlke, a hydrology expert at UC Davis] and a team of
researchers recently shared findings from their study showing
how California’s 8 million acres of farmland could be tapped as
one way to help get water back into the ground through a
process called ‘Ag-MAR.’
You can’t see it, but how we live impacts it and plays a vital
role in almost everything that happens in Arizona. Groundwater
is located deep beneath the surface and stored in aquifers,
which are porous rock that contain or transport
water. About 40% of the state’s water supply is
underground, with that number likely to increase due to
reductions in available water from the Colorado River. An
ongoing concern is what would happen if the valuable resource
For the past year, California’s Department of Water Resources
has been taking measurements of aquifers in central and
southern parts of the state. The same will be done for the
Sacramento Valley over the next several weeks. This project,
which is known as an Airborne Electromagnetic (AEM) Survey, is
a direct result of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act,
which calls for local and state water agencies to work together
to better understand and manage groundwater supply.
A group of Butte County farmers, who rely solely on groundwater
to farm mostly tree crops north of Chico, are one step closer
to finalizing formation of a new water district. They say the
new district will help future generations comply with a state
regulation to bring groundwater supplies into balance in 20
years. … SGMA, signed into law in 2014, establishes a
new structure for managing groundwater in California and
requires groundwater sustainability agencies to manage
groundwater locally and develop and implement plans to achieve
California is deploying cutting-edge technology that can ‘see’
underground water. A giant electrified ring suspended from
a helicopter will make a never-before-seen picture of a world
beneath our feet. Wells in the Valley are running dry. Drilling
deeper is more expensive and sometimes still fails to find
water. When it does, water quality is often worse, containing
minerals like arsenic.
California prohibits farmers from growing crops with
chemical-laced wastewater from fracking. Yet the state still
allows them to use water produced by conventional oil
drilling—a chemical soup that contains many of the same toxic
compounds. When rumors spread several years ago that California
was growing some of the nation’s nuts, citrus and vegetables
with wastewater produced from hydraulic fracturing, known as
fracking, regulators said that would be illegal.
Water resources are declining in many regions of the world. Due
to climate change, increased air temperatures, and reduced
precipitation, we will face a decline in water resources in the
future. … Lampinen et al investigated soil and
plant data and evapotranspiration for irrigation management of
walnut trees in California, USA. Fernandes-Silva, by
examining the effect of different irrigation regimes (dryland
irrigation with 30% and 100% water requirement) on yield and
WUE of olive, reported that crop evapotranspiration (ETc) is
the most influential parameter in changes in fruit yield.
New data and reports now show that the Paso Robles groundwater
basin is being severely depleted — with unsustainable amounts
pumped throughout the entire last decade. As a result, it is
now considered a critically overdrafted groundwater basin in
need of management to ensure the long-term sustainability of
the water source…. Blame for the status of the groundwater
basin is tossed around between lack of regulation from local
politicians and overpumping from vintners…. But vintners
and local industry leaders interviewed by The Tribune said
placing the blame on the wine industry is oversimplifying a
On April 19, 2022, Clark County District Court Judge Bita
Yeager issued a decision vacating the Nevada State Engineer’s
(State Engineer) June 15, 2020, Order 1309. Under Order 1309,
the State Engineer merged seven independently designated
hydrographic basins into one basin known as the Lower White
River Flow System (LWRFS) to be conjunctively managed. The
State Engineer did so based on scientific evidence as to the
previously delineated basins’ hydrological connection.
Rural residents using well water in the sprawling Santa Rosa
Plain would pay about $20 a year under a state-mandated program
aimed at protecting groundwater for the next 50 years. The
10-member board that governs the agency overseeing Sonoma
County’s largest groundwater basin favors a regulatory fee
structure based on the estimated amount of water well owners
pump from the ground, officials reported at a virtual community
meeting Wednesday night.
In 2004, Emeryville, an industrial suburb of San Francisco,
sent an environmental remediation crew to inject 15,000 gallons
of cottage cheese into groundwater below an abandoned factory.
The factory manufactured car bumpers from 1951 to 1967, and the
hexavalent chromium it left behind had since traveled into the
groundwater. Hexavalent chromium gives humans cancer, trivalent
chromium doesn’t, and cottage cheese converts the former to the
Scattered across California’s San Joaquin Valley are colonias,
the unincorporated communities home to some of the Valley’s
poorest residents in one of the richest agricultural areas in
the world. … Water access is a critical question in
California. Former Governor Jerry Brown declared an official
drought in 2014. The state today is even drier, and the
declaration is still in force. Teviston, a tiny community
established by African Americans in the 1940s, went completely
without water for a month last summer when its only well
In the late 1990s, Steven and Lucia Kisiel bought 20 acres of
land with a new well in Cochise County, a rural area in
southeastern Arizona. The couple built a straw bale house with
their own hands and started growing produce for themselves and
others in the area. In 2013, Kisiel turned on his kitchen
faucet and water sputtered out along with fine sediment, a sign
that his well wasn’t pumping enough water.
Throughout western Fresno County, fertile land has been taken
out of production because the irrigation supply isn’t stable
enough to bring a crop to harvest. Many of Joe Del Bosque’s dry
fields in Firebaugh will stay that way this season.
… Without adequate surface water delivered from
reservoirs, some growers must continue to pump groundwater from
their wells. But the California Groundwater Live website
shows 64% of monitored wells are below normal.
Between vast almond orchards and dairy pastures in the heart of
California’s farm country sits a property being redesigned to
look like it did 150 years ago, before levees restricted the
flow of rivers that weave across the landscape. The 2,100 acres
(1,100 hectares) at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San
Joaquin rivers in the state’s Central Valley are being reverted
to a floodplain.
In a dramatic shift from California’s history of allowing
landowners to freely pump and consume water from their own
wells, Sonoma County’s rural residents and many others will
soon begin paying for the water drawn from beneath their
feet…. The residential fees are based on an assumption
that rural residents typically pump a half-acre foot of well
water a year. Most homes do not have water meters and none will
be installed under the fee program. Large groundwater water
users — including ranches, cities, water districts and
businesses — would pay fees based on the volume of water drawn
from their wells.
Arellano Mobile Home Park … is one of seven east Coachella
Valley trailer parks where since November EPA inspectors have
found water containing arsenic levels above federal legal
limits — even from a faucet equipped with a filter
— and thousands of times above state public health
guidelines. Low-income residents at the small park and
others like it told The Desert Sun they’ve long endured
foul-smelling water and have had to buy
gallons of clean water for years to try to stay
Amid the sweeping backdrop of the Topatopa Mountains and a
field of colorful organic vegetables, members of the Ventura
County farming community joined advocates and water experts to
urge the passage of Measures A and B. The twin ballot measures
would close a loophole in Ventura County allowing oil and gas
companies to drill without environmental review using
antiquated permits. In most cases, these permits were granted
between 1930 and 1970. Cynthia King’s farm, where the
press conference took place, is surrounded by a CUP that was
approved in 1928.
Valley groundwater agencies are mired in confusion and concern
over Gov. Newsom’s March 28 executive drought order, which
added new steps for permitting agricultural wells, according to
agencies’ staff. As groundwater agency managers scramble
to hash out exactly how to comply with the order, well permits
in some areas are stuck in limbo leaving well drillers and
small farmers without answers — or water.
Martha Guzman recalls those awful
days working on water and other issues as a deputy legislative
secretary for then-Gov. Jerry Brown. California was mired in a
recession and the state’s finances were deep in the red. Parks
were cut, schools were cut, programs were cut to try to balance a
troubled state budget in what she remembers as “that terrible
She now finds herself in a strikingly different position: As
administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s
Region 9, she has a mandate to address water challenges across
California, Nevada, Arizona and Hawaii and $1 billion to help pay
for it. It is the kind of funding, she said, that is usually
spread out over a decade. Guzman called it the “absolutely
This tour ventured through California’s Central Valley, known as the nation’s breadbasket thanks to an imported supply of surface water and local groundwater. Covering about 20,000 square miles through the heart of the state, the valley provides 25 percent of the nation’s food, including 40 percent of all fruits, nuts and vegetables consumed throughout the country.
The lower Colorado River has virtually every drop allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states, 30 tribal nations and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Hyatt Place Las Vegas At Silverton Village
8380 Dean Martin Drive
Las Vegas, NV 89139
As California’s seasons become
warmer and drier, state officials are pondering whether the water
rights permitting system needs revising to better reflect the
reality of climate change’s effect on the timing and volume of
the state’s water supply.
A report by the State Water Resources Control Board recommends
that new water rights permits be tailored to California’s
increasingly volatile hydrology and be adaptable enough to ensure
water exists to meet an applicant’s demand. And it warns
that the increasingly whiplash nature of California’s changing
climate could require existing rights holders to curtail
diversions more often and in more watersheds — or open
opportunities to grab more water in climate-induced floods.
The San Joaquin Valley has a big
hill to climb in reaching groundwater sustainability. Driven by
the need to keep using water to irrigate the nation’s breadbasket
while complying with California’s Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act, people throughout the valley are looking for
innovative and cost-effective ways to manage and use groundwater
more wisely. Here are three examples.
Groundwater provides about 40
percent of the water in California for urban, rural and
agricultural needs in typical years, and as much as 60 percent in
dry years when surface water supplies are low. But in many areas
of the state, groundwater is being extracted faster than it can
be replenished through natural or artificial means.
Across a sprawling corner of southern Tulare County snug against the Sierra Nevada, a bounty of navel oranges, grapes, pistachios, hay and other crops sprout from the loam and clay of the San Joaquin Valley. Groundwater helps keep these orchards, vineyards and fields vibrant and supports a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy across the valley. But that bounty has come at a price. Overpumping of groundwater has depleted aquifers, dried up household wells and degraded ecosystems.
Since 1997, more than 430 engineers,
farmers, environmentalists, lawyers, and others have graduated
from our William R. Gianelli Water Leaders program. We’ve
developed a new alumni network
webpage to help program participants connect and keep in
This event explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs was the focus of this tour.
Innovative efforts to accelerate
restoration of headwater forests and to improve a river for the
benefit of both farmers and fish. Hard-earned lessons for water
agencies from a string of devastating California wildfires.
Efforts to drought-proof a chronically water-short region of
California. And a broad debate surrounding how best to address
persistent challenges facing the Colorado River.
These were among the issues Western Water explored in
2019, and are still worth taking a look at in case you missed
The Water Education Foundation’s Water 101 Workshop, one of our most popular events, offered attendees the opportunity to deepen their understanding of California’s water history, laws, geography and politics.
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the state, the one-day workshop held on Feb. 20, 2020 covered the latest on the most compelling issues in California water.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
A diverse roster of top
policymakers and water experts are on the
agenda for the Foundation’s 36th annual Water
Summit. The conference, Water Year 2020: A Year
of Reckoning, will feature compelling conversations
reflecting on upcoming regulatory deadlines and efforts to
improve water management and policy in the face of natural
Tickets for the Water Summit are sold out, but by joining the waitlist we can
let you know when spaces open via cancellations.
To survive the next drought and meet
the looming demands of the state’s groundwater sustainability
law, California is going to have to put more water back in the
ground. But as other Western states have found, recharging
overpumped aquifers is no easy task.
Successfully recharging aquifers could bring multiple benefits
for farms and wildlife and help restore the vital interconnection
between groundwater and rivers or streams. As local areas around
California draft their groundwater sustainability plans, though,
landowners in the hardest hit regions of the state know they will
have to reduce pumping to address the chronic overdraft in which
millions of acre-feet more are withdrawn than are naturally
California experienced one of the
most deadly and destructive wildfire years on record in 2018,
with several major fires occurring in the wildland-urban
interface (WUI). These areas, where communities are in close
proximity to undeveloped land at high risk of wildfire, have felt
devastating effects of these disasters, including direct impacts
to water infrastructure and supplies.
One panel at our 2019 Water
Summit Oct. 30 in Sacramento will feature speakers
from water agencies who came face-to-face with two major fires:
The Camp Fire that destroyed most of the town of Paradise in
Northern California, and the Woolsey Fire in the Southern
California coastal mountains. They’ll talk about their
experiences and what lessons they learned.
The southern part of California’s Central Coast from San Luis Obispo County to Ventura County, home to about 1.5 million people, is blessed with a pleasing Mediterranean climate and a picturesque terrain. Yet while its unique geography abounds in beauty, the area perpetually struggles with drought.
Indeed, while the rest of California breathed a sigh of relief with the return of wet weather after the severe drought of 2012–2016, places such as Santa Barbara still grappled with dry conditions.
With a key deadline for the
Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in January, one of the
featured panels at our Oct.
Summit will focus on how regions around California
are crafting groundwater sustainability plans and working on
innovative ways to fill aquifers.
The theme for this year’s Water Summit, “Water Year 2020: A Year
of Reckoning,” reflects critical upcoming events in California
water, including the imminent Jan. 31, 2020 deadline for
groundwater sustainability plans (GSPs) in high- and
Our event calendar is an excellent
resource for keeping up with water events in California and the
Groundwater is top of mind for many water managers as they
prepare to meet next January’s deadline for submitting
sustainability plans required under California’s Sustainable
Groundwater Management Act. We have several upcoming featured
events listed on our calendar that focus on a variety of relevant
Registration opens today for the
Water Education Foundation’s 36th annual Water
Summit, set for Oct. 30 in Sacramento. This year’s
theme, Water Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,
reflects fast-approaching deadlines for the State Groundwater
Management Act as well as the pressing need for new approaches to
water management as California and the West weather intensified
flooding, fire and drought. To register for this can’t-miss
event, visit our Water Summit
Registration includes a full day of discussions by leading
stakeholders and policymakers on key issues, as well as coffee,
materials, gourmet lunch and an outdoor reception by the
Sacramento River that will offer the opportunity to network with
speakers and other attendees. The summit also features a silent
auction to benefit our Water Leaders program featuring
items up for bid such as kayaking trips, hotel stays and lunches
with key people in the water world.
Summer is a good time to take a
break, relax and enjoy some of the great beaches, waterways and
watersheds around California and the West. We hope you’re getting
a chance to do plenty of that this July.
But in the weekly sprint through work, it’s easy to miss
some interesting nuggets you might want to read. So while we’re
taking a publishing break to work on other water articles planned
for later this year, we want to help you catch up on
Western Water stories from the first half of this year
that you might have missed.
Our 36th annual
happening Oct. 30 in Sacramento, will feature the theme “Water
Year 2020: A Year of Reckoning,” reflecting upcoming regulatory
deadlines and efforts to improve water management and policy in
the face of natural disasters.
The Summit will feature top policymakers and leading stakeholders
providing the latest information and a variety of viewpoints on
issues affecting water across California and the West.
One of California Gov. Gavin
Newsom’s first actions after taking office was to appoint Wade
Crowfoot as Natural Resources Agency secretary. Then, within
weeks, the governor laid out an ambitious water agenda that
Crowfoot, 45, is now charged with executing.
That agenda includes the governor’s desire for a “fresh approach”
on water, scaling back the conveyance plan in the Sacramento-San
Joaquin Delta and calling for more water recycling, expanded
floodplains in the Central Valley and more groundwater recharge.
Groundwater helped make Kern County
the king of California agricultural production, with a $7 billion
annual array of crops that help feed the nation. That success has
come at a price, however. Decades of unchecked groundwater
pumping in the county and elsewhere across the state have left
some aquifers severely depleted. Now, the county’s water managers
have less than a year left to devise a plan that manages and
protects groundwater for the long term, yet ensures that Kern
County’s economy can continue to thrive, even with less water.
This tour explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial needs is the focus of this tour.
3333 Blue Diamond Road
Las Vegas, NV 89139
Although Santa Monica may be the most aggressive Southern California water provider to wean itself from imported supplies, it is hardly the only one looking to remake its water portfolio.
In Los Angeles, a city of about 4 million people, efforts are underway to dramatically slash purchases of imported water while boosting the amount from recycling, stormwater capture, groundwater cleanup and conservation. Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2014 announced a plan to reduce the city’s purchase of imported water from Metropolitan Water District by one-half by 2025 and to provide one-half of the city’s supply from local sources by 2035. (The city considers its Eastern Sierra supplies as imported water.)
Imported water from the Sierra
Nevada and the Colorado River built Southern California. Yet as
drought, climate change and environmental concerns render those
supplies increasingly at risk, the Southland’s cities have ramped
up their efforts to rely more on local sources and less on
Far and away the most ambitious goal has been set by the city of
Santa Monica, which in 2014 embarked on a course to be virtually
water independent through local sources by 2023. In the 1990s,
Santa Monica was completely dependent on imported water. Now, it
derives more than 70 percent of its water locally.
The whims of political fate decided
in 2018 that state bond money would not be forthcoming to help
repair the subsidence-damaged parts of Friant-Kern Canal, the
152-mile conduit that conveys water from the San Joaquin River to
farms that fuel a multibillion-dollar agricultural economy along
the east side of the fertile San Joaquin Valley.
The growing leadership of women in water. The Colorado River’s persistent drought and efforts to sign off on a plan to avert worse shortfalls of water from the river. And in California’s Central Valley, promising solutions to vexing water resource challenges.
These were among the topics that Western Water news explored in 2018.
We’re already planning a full slate of stories for 2019. You can sign up here to be alerted when new stories are published. In the meantime, take a look at what we dove into in 2018:
This 2-day, 1-night tour offered participants the opportunity to
learn about water issues affecting California’s scenic Central
Coast and efforts to solve some of the challenges of a region
struggling to be sustainable with limited local supplies that
have potential applications statewide.
In the universe of California water, Tim Quinn is a professor emeritus. Quinn has seen — and been a key player in — a lot of major California water issues since he began his water career 40 years ago as a young economist with the Rand Corporation, then later as deputy general manager with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and finally as executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. In December, the 66-year-old will retire from ACWA.
In 1983, a landmark California Supreme Court ruling extended the public trust doctrine to tributary creeks that feed Mono Lake, which is a navigable water body even though the creeks themselves were not. The ruling marked a dramatic shift in water law and forced Los Angeles to cut back its take of water from those creeks in the Eastern Sierra to preserve the lake.
Now, a state appellate court has for the first time extended that same public trust doctrine to groundwater that feeds a navigable river, in this case the Scott River flowing through a picturesque valley of farms and alfalfa in Siskiyou County in the northern reaches of California.
One of our most popular events, our annual Water 101 Workshop
details the history, geography, legal and political facets
of water in California as well as hot topics currently facing the
Taught by some of the leading policy and legal experts in the
state, the one-day workshop on Feb. 7 gave attendees a
deeper understanding of the state’s most precious natural
Optional Groundwater Tour
On Feb. 8, we jumped aboard a bus to explore groundwater, a key
resource in California. Led by Foundation staff and groundwater
Harter and Carl Hauge, retired DWR chief hydrogeologist, the
tour visited cities and farms using groundwater, examined a
subsidence measuring station and provided the latest updates
on the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.
McGeorge School of Law
3327 5th Ave.
Sacramento, CA 95817
More than a decade in the making, an
ambitious plan to deal with the vexing problem of salt and
nitrates in the soils that seep into key groundwater basins of
the Central Valley is moving toward implementation. But its
authors are not who you might expect.
An unusual collaboration of agricultural interests, cities, water
agencies and environmental justice advocates collaborated for
years to find common ground to address a set of problems that
have rendered family wells undrinkable and some soil virtually
unusable for farming.
As California embarks on its unprecedented mission to harness groundwater pumping, the Arizona desert may provide one guide that local managers can look to as they seek to arrest years of overdraft.
Groundwater is stressed by a demand that often outpaces natural and artificial recharge. In California, awareness of groundwater’s importance resulted in the landmark Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014 that aims to have the most severely depleted basins in a state of balance in about 20 years.
Spurred by drought and a major
policy shift, groundwater management has assumed an unprecedented
mantle of importance in California. Local agencies in the
hardest-hit areas of groundwater depletion are drawing plans to
halt overdraft and bring stressed aquifers to the road of
We explored the lower Colorado River where virtually every drop
of the river is allocated, yet demand is growing from myriad
sources — increasing population, declining habitat, drought and
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs was the focus of this tour.
Hampton Inn Tropicana
4975 Dean Martin Drive, Las Vegas, NV 89118
California voters may experience a sense of déjà vu this year when they are asked twice in the same year to consider water bonds — one in June, the other headed to the November ballot.
Both tackle a variety of water issues, from helping disadvantaged communities get clean drinking water to making flood management improvements. But they avoid more controversial proposals, such as new surface storage, and they propose to do some very different things to appeal to different constituencies.
This three-day, two-night tour explored the lower Colorado River
where virtually every drop of the river is allocated, yet demand
is growing from myriad sources — increasing population,
declining habitat, drought and climate change.
The 1,450-mile river is a lifeline to 40 million people in
the Southwest across seven states and Mexico. How the Lower Basin
states – Arizona, California and Nevada – use and manage this
water to meet agricultural, urban, environmental and industrial
needs is the focus of this tour.
Best Western McCarran Inn
4970 Paradise Road
Las Vegas, NV 89119
This tour explored the Sacramento River and its tributaries
through a scenic landscape as participants learned about the
issues associated with a key source for the state’s water supply.
All together, the river and its tributaries supply 35 percent of
California’s water and feed into two major projects: the State
Water Project and the federal Central Valley Project. Tour
participants got an on-site update of repair efforts on the
Oroville Dam spillway.
Groundwater replenishment happens
through direct recharge and in-lieu recharge. Water used for
direct recharge most often comes from flood flows, water
conservation, recycled water, desalination and water
One of the wettest years in California history that ended a
record five-year drought has rejuvenated the call for new storage
to be built above and below ground.
In a state that depends on large surface water reservoirs to help
store water before moving it hundreds of miles to where it is
used, a wet year after a long drought has some people yearning
for a place to sock away some of those flood flows for when they
Sinkholes are caused by erosion of
rocks beneath soil’s surface. Groundwater dissolves soft
rocks such as gypsum, salt and limestone, leaving gaps in the
originally solid structure. This is exacerbated when water is
acidic from contact with carbon dioxide or acid rain. Even
humidity can play a major role in destabilizing water
Irrigation is the artificial supply
of water to grow crops or plants. Obtained from either surface or groundwater, it optimizes
agricultural production when the amount of rain and where it
falls is insufficient. Different irrigation
systems are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but in
practical use are often combined. Much of the agriculture in
California and the West relies on irrigation.
The United States
Geographical Survey (USGS) defines freshwater as containing
less than 1,000 milligrams per liter dissolved solids. However,
500 milligrams per liter is usually the cutoff for municipal and
commercial use. Most of the Earth’s water is saline, 97.5
percent with only 2.5 percent fresh.
Springs are where groundwater becomes surface water, acting as openings
where subsurface water can discharge onto the ground or directly
into other water bodies. They can also be considered the
consequence of an overflowing
aquifer. As a result, springs often serve as headwaters to streams.
Potable water, also known as
drinking water, comes from surface and ground sources and is
treated to levels that that meet state and federal standards for
Water from natural sources is treated for microorganisms,
bacteria, toxic chemicals, viruses and fecal matter. Drinking
raw, untreated water can cause gastrointestinal problems such as
diarrhea, vomiting or fever.
Extensometers are among the most valuable devices hydrogeologists
use to measure subsidence, but most people – even water
professionals – have never seen one. They are sensitive and
carefully calibrated, so they are kept under lock and key and are
often in remote locations on private property.
During our California
Groundwater Tour Oct. 5-6, you will see two types of
extensometers used by the California Department of Water
Resources to monitor changes in elevation caused by groundwater
Flowing into the heart of the Mojave Desert, the Mojave River
exists mostly underground. Surface channels are usually dry
absent occasional groundwater surfacing and flooding
from extreme weather events like El Niño.
Alluvium generally refers to the clay, silt, sand and gravel that
are deposited by a stream, creek or other water body.
Alluvium is found around deltas and rivers, frequently
making soils very fertile. Alternatively, “colluvium” refers to
the accumulation at the base of hills, brought there from runoff
(as opposed to a water body). The Oxnard Plain in Ventura
County is a visible alluvial plain, where floodplains have
drifted over time due to gradual deposits of alluvium, a feature
also present in Red Rock Canyon State Park in Kern County.
A new era of groundwater management
began in 2014 with the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater
Management Act (SGMA), which aims for local and regional agencies
to develop and implement sustainable groundwater management
plans with the state as the backstop.
SGMA defines “sustainable groundwater management” as the
“management and use of groundwater in a manner that can be
maintained during the planning and implementation horizon without
causing undesirable results.”
This issue looks at remote sensing applications and how satellite
information enables analysts to get a better understanding of
snowpack, how much water a plant actually uses, groundwater
levels, levee stability and more.
This handbook provides crucial
background information on the Sustainable Groundwater Management
Act, signed into law in 2014 by Gov. Jerry Brown. The handbook
also includes a section on options for new governance.
This 2-day, 1-night tour traveled from the
Sacramento region to Napa Valley to view sites that explore
groundwater issues. Topics included groundwater quality,
overdraft and subsidence, agricultural use, wells, and regional
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater is an in-depth,
easy-to-understand publication that provides background and
perspective on groundwater. The guide explains what groundwater
is – not an underground network of rivers and lakes! – and the
history of its use in California.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to
Water Rights Law, recognized as the most thorough explanation of
California water rights law available to non-lawyers, traces the
authority for water flowing in a stream or reservoir, from a
faucet or into an irrigation ditch through the complex web of
California water rights.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at California
groundwater and whether its sustainability can be assured by
local, regional and state management. For more background
information on groundwater please refer to the Foundation’s
Layperson’s Guide to Groundwater.
This printed issue of Western Water looks at hydraulic
fracturing, or “fracking,” in California. Much of the information
in the article was presented at a conference hosted by the
Groundwater Resources Association of California.
This printed issue of Western Water features a
roundtable discussion with Anthony Saracino, a water resources
consultant; Martha Davis, executive manager of policy development
with the Inland Empire Utilities Agency and senior policy advisor
to the Delta Stewardship Council; Stuart Leavenworth, editorial
page editor of The Sacramento Bee and Ellen Hanak, co-director of
research and senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of
This printed issue of Western Water looks at some of
the pieces of the 2009 water legislation, including the Delta
Stewardship Council, the new requirements for groundwater
monitoring and the proposed water bond.
This printed issue of Western Water examines the Russian and
Santa Ana rivers – areas with ongoing issues not dissimilar to
the rest of the state – managing supplies within a lingering
drought, improving water quality and revitalizing and restoring
the vestiges of the native past.
This printed copy of Western Water examines California’s drought
– its impact on water users in the urban and agricultural sector
and the steps being taken to prepare for another dry year should
Statewide, groundwater provides about 30 percent of California’s
water supply, with some regions more dependent on it than others.
In drier years, groundwater provides a higher percentage of the
water supply. Groundwater is less known than surface water but no
less important. Its potential for helping to meet the state’s
growing water demand has spurred greater attention toward gaining
a better understanding of its overall value. This issue of
Western Water examines groundwater storage and its increasing
importance in California’s future water policy.
This issue of Western Water examines the issue of California
groundwater management, in light of recent attention focused on
the subject through legislative actions and the release of the
draft Bulletin 118. In addition to providing an overview of
groundwater and management options, it offers a glimpse of what
the future may hold and some background information on
groundwater hydrology and law.
This 25-minute documentary-style DVD, developed in partnership
with the California Department of Water Resources, provides an
excellent overview of climate change and how it is already
affecting California. The DVD also explains what scientists
anticipate in the future related to sea level rise and
precipitation/runoff changes and explores the efforts that are
underway to plan and adapt to climate.
20-minute DVD that explains the problem with polluted stormwater,
and steps that can be taken to help prevent such pollution and
turn what is often viewed as a “nuisance” into a water resource
through various activities.
Many Californians don’t realize that when they turn on the
faucet, the water that flows out could come from a source close
to home or one hundreds of miles away. Most people take their
water for granted; not thinking about the elaborate systems and
testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state. Where drinking water comes from,
how it’s treated, and what people can do to protect its quality
are highlighted in this 2007 PBS documentary narrated by actress
A 30-minute version of the 2007 PBS documentary Drinking Water:
Quenching the Public Thirst. This DVD is ideal for showing at
community forums and speaking engagements to help the public
understand the complex issues surrounding the elaborate systems
and testing that go into delivering clean, plentiful water to
households throughout the state.
Water truly has shaped California into the great state it is
today. And if it is water that made California great, it’s the
fight over – and with – water that also makes it so critically
important. In efforts to remap California’s circulatory system,
there have been some critical events that had a profound impact
on California’s water history. These turning points not only
forced a re-evaluation of water, but continue to impact the lives
of every Californian. This 2005 PBS documentary offers a
historical and current look at the major water issues that shaped
the state we know today. Includes a 12-page viewer’s guide with
background information, historic timeline and a teacher’s lesson.
This 7-minute DVD is designed to teach children in grades 5-12
about where storm water goes – and why it is so important to
clean up trash, use pesticides and fertilizers wisely, and
prevent other chemicals from going down the storm drain. The
video’s teenage actors explain the water cycle and the difference
between sewer drains and storm drains, how storm drain water is
not treated prior to running into a river or other waterway. The
teens also offer a list of BMPs – best management practices that
homeowners can do to prevent storm water pollution.
Fashioned after the popular California Water Map, this 24×36 inch
poster was extensively re-designed in 2017 to better illustrate
the value and use of groundwater in California, the main types of
aquifers, and the connection between groundwater and surface
Water as a renewable resource is depicted in this 18×24 inch
poster. Water is renewed again and again by the natural
hydrologic cycle where water evaporates, transpires from plants,
rises to form clouds, and returns to the earth as precipitation.
Excellent for elementary school classroom use.
As the state’s population continues to grow and traditional water
supplies grow tighter, there is increased interest in reusing
treated wastewater for a variety of activities, including
irrigation of crops, parks and golf courses, groundwater recharge
and industrial uses.
The 20-page Layperson’s Guide to Water Marketing provides
background information on water rights, types of transfers and
critical policy issues surrounding this topic. First published in
1996, the 2005 version offers expanded information on
groundwater banking and conjunctive use, Colorado River
transfers and the role of private companies in California’s
developing water market.
Order in bulk (25 or more copies of the same guide) for a reduced
fee. Contact the Foundation, 916-444-6240, for details.
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to Integrated Regional Water
Management (IRWM) is an in-depth, easy-to-understand publication
that provides background information on the principles of IRWM,
its funding history and how it differs from the traditional water
The 24-page Layperson’s Guide to California Water provides an
excellent overview of the history of water development and use in
California. It includes sections on flood management; the state,
federal and Colorado River delivery systems; Delta issues; water
rights; environmental issues; water quality; and options for
stretching the water supply such as water marketing and
conjunctive use. New in this 10th edition of the guide is a
section on the human need for water.
The 28-page Layperson’s Guide to Nevada Water provides an
overview of the history of water development and use in Nevada.
It includes sections on Nevada’s water rights laws, the history
of the Truckee and Carson rivers, water supplies for the Las
Vegas area, groundwater, water quality, environmental issues and
today’s water supply challenges.
Seawater intrusion can harm groundwater quality in a variety of
places, both coastal and inland, throughout California.
Along the coast, seawater intrusion into aquifers is connected to overdrafting of
groundwater. Additionally, in the interior, groundwater
pumping can draw up salty water from ancient seawater isolated in
Overdraft occurs when, over a period of years, more water is
pumped from a groundwater basin than is replaced from all sources
– such as rainfall, irrigation water, streams fed by mountain
runoff and intentional recharge. [See also Hydrologic Cycle.]
While many of its individual aquifers are not overdrafted,
California as a whole uses more groundwater than is replaced.
The treatment of groundwater— the primary source of drinking
water and irrigation water in many parts of the United States —
varies from community to community, and even from well to well
within a city depending on what contaminants the water contains.
In California, one-half of the state’s population drinks water
drawn from underground sources [the remainder is provided by
California has considered, but not implemented, a comprehensive
groundwater strategy many
times over the last century.
One hundred years ago, the California Conservation Commission
considered adding groundwater regulation into the Water
Commission Act of 1913. After hearings were held, it was
decided to leave groundwater rights out of the Water Code.
Groundwater banking is a process of diverting floodwaters or
other surface water into
an aquifer where it can be
stored until it is needed later. In a twist of fate, the space
made available by emptying some aquifers opened the door for the
banking activities used so extensively today.
When multiple parties withdraw water from the same aquifer,
groundwater pumpers can ask the court to adjudicate, or hear
arguments for and against, to better define the rights that
various entities have to use groundwater resources. This is known
as groundwater adjudication. [See also California
water rights and Groundwater Law.]
For something so largely hidden from view, groundwater is an
important and controversial part of California’s water supply
picture. How it should be managed and whether it becomes part of
overarching state regulation is a topic of strong debate.
In early June, environmentalists and Delta water agencies sued
the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) and the Kern
County Water Agency (KCWA) over the validity of the transfer of
the Kern Water Bank, a huge underground reservoir that supplies
water to farms and cities locally and outside the area. The suit,
which culminates a decade-long controversy involving multiple
issues of state and local jurisdictional authority, has put the
spotlight on groundwater banking – an important but controversial
water management practice in many areas of California.
Groundwater, out of sight and out of mind to most people, is
taking on an increased role in California’s water future.
Often overlooked and misunderstood, groundwater’s profile is
being elevated as various scenarios combine to cloud the water
supply outlook. A dry 2006-2007 water year (downtown Los Angeles
received a record low amount of rain), crisis conditions in the
Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the mounting evidence of climate
change have invigorated efforts to further utilize aquifers as a
reliable source of water supply.
When you drink the water, remember the spring. – Chinese proverb
Water is everywhere. Viewed from outer space, the Earth radiates
a blue glow from the oceans that dominate its surface. Atop the
sea and land, huge clouds of water vapor swirl around the globe,
propelling the weather system that sustains life. Along the way,
water, which an ancient sage called “the noblest of elements,”
transforms from vapor to liquid and to solid form as it falls
from the atmosphere to the surface, trickles below ground and
ultimately returns skyward.
Traditionally treated as two separate resources, surface water
and groundwater are increasingly linked in California as water
leaders search for a way to close the gap between water demand
and water supply. Although some water districts have coordinated
use of surface water and groundwater for years, conjunctive use
has become the catchphrase when it comes to developing additional
water supply for the 21st century.